Give your home a TLC makeover


In the world of Apartment Therapy (, your home reflects your inner life. The blog offers helpful decorating tips and practical advice -- much of it reader-generated -- in service to the belief that a well-designed home is vital to one's mental health.

The site, which started in New York and spawned clones in three other cities, isn't just for urbanites, though some of the posts are about specific stores or sales. It's geared toward apartment dwellers with limited space, but homeowners also frequent its pages.

Popular sections of the interactive blog include virtual "House Tours" of readers' homes, the discussion board "Open Thread," and contests in categories like "Greenest Thumb" or "Messiest Closet." The take-home message of Apartment Therapy is that your home isn't just your sanctuary ... it's your palette and your playground, too.

Interior designer and Apartment Therapy co-founder Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, 40, lives with his wife in a 250-square-foot apartment in New York's West Village. They are expecting a child in September but have no plans to move to a larger home. What are common mistakes people make when decorating an apartment?

They go shopping too soon. Some people buy a sofa but have no plan for how it will fit into their apartment, and then it sticks out like a sore thumb. I advise people to first go through magazines and pull pictures of rooms they want. Another thing is lighting. Most rooms are underlit as a rule. What are a few inexpensive tips for maximizing a small space?

The biggest thing you can do is clean it out. It's not very exciting, but decluttering and deep cleaning has the single biggest effect on space. After that, rearranging. Redirect the flow lines so there is breathing space.

Painting is the cheapest way to transform a space, and it really works. Oh, and wash the windows. What's worth spending money on?

Rugs. It's funny because we step on them, but they last longer than sofas. Also tables for the same reason. What can you scrimp on?

Lighting. Even with high-end clients, I mix cheaper and more expensive lighting. I think you can also spend less on a sofa and then find a fabric you like and recover it. What design trends are you excited about now?

Wallpaper is coming back fast. It is becoming the hippest, edgiest thing to buy for your house. The other thing is bold, strong color. What do you think of fake plants?

They're awful. They are a complete misuse of the artificial and an insult to yourself and to plants in general. What are some principles of designing a good home?

Organization is one. Are things where you left them? Do you have your keys and cell phone? Also, is it healthy? Is your apartment clean? Are the windows clean, is the air breathable and the water drinkable? And then there's beauty, or decor, which I look at as the spiritual icing on the cake. Without it you are missing an opportunity to express who you are. What role does home play in a person's life?

I was a teacher for seven years, and one thing we did was visit students at home. I found that those kids who had the best homes, in terms of calmness, organization, health and beauty, did the best in class. I'm not talking about expensive homes, either, but modest homes that were beautiful and organized. Do apartments play a different role in one's life in New York than other places?

I think so. The city is definitely an extension of your home, and it's a good thing. The problem happens when people go out so much that they turn their apartment into their crash pad, and it becomes the withering limb of the home. If you don't nurture it, it grows old and you avoid it. Apartment Therapy was meant to get people back into their homes. Why get back into your home?

Because it's your foundation. And people who are always living in someone else's space, at restaurants or offices, don't have much inner life. They aren't creating something for themselves and they become sort of boring as people.

Jessica Berthold writes for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa.


In a word:


E-candy for:

Trendy young professionals. Engaged couples who register at Lowe's as well as Crate and Barrel. People who subscribe to both ReadyMade and Wallpaper mags.

In sum:

Interactive site with tips and resources on creating a comfortable, fashionable home in limited space.

This blog as a person:

Dear Abby meets Queer Eye's Thom Filicia

Sample topics:

Cool furnishings. Design trends. Reviews of stores and products. Classifieds sections. Q&A on practical issues. Virtual house tours.

Classic post:

"Ever wanted to have nice warm towels on a cold morning? We have. We take our towels and stuff them behind the heating pipe that runs through the bathroom just to get a little of that European hotel luxury. specializes in heated towel racks in many shapes and sizes and they don't need to be inserted into your heating system; they just plug in." (April 24, 2006.)

Making it happen:

Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, 40, a New York interior designer.


March 2004.


Several times a day.


Crisp, approachable and fun.


Clean and sophisticated.

Comments allowed?



30,000 unique visitors/day.

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